Other Highlights During the Total Lunar Eclipse

February 20, 2008

During the total lunar eclipse on February 20, 2008, there are other celestial wonders to view, both with the naked eye and with telescopes.  Refer to the star field below.

sqm-08609.JPG (17582 bytes)The moon itself is in the constellation of Leo the Lion, with the bright star Regulus nearby.  Before and during the eclipse, visitors are welcome to help us quantify the sky brightness using hand-held Sky Quality Meters (SQMs).  We are going to try to measure by how much the moon's natural light diminishes during this celestial event.  

To the left of the moon is a yellowish object, but not a star--it's Saturn!  The famous rings, though faint in modest telescopes, will likely take your breath away the first time you see them.  If a total lunar eclipse isn't enough to attract you to Toscana Park, then consider seeing Saturn, it's delicate rings, and maybe even a couple of its moons.  If you're not moved by that, we'll have a doctor nearby to see if you have a pulse.  

Prominent in the south is mighty Orion the Hunter, with his signature belt of three stars in a row.  Orion is the featured constellation for the Globe at Night project.  From February 25 to March 8,2008, families and individuals--citizen scientists--will observe Orion, tally up the stars they can see, forward their observation to the  international experiment, then compare local results with those from around the globe.  

Follow Orion's three "belt stars" down and to the left and you come to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius.  

To the upper left of Orion is the red star Betelgeuse, but above Orion is the red planet Mars.  Within your ken are NASA's next targets, as suggested by their mission: "Moon, Mars, and Beyond."  Who knows, the next person to step foot on Mars may very well be walking around the crowd during the Wednesday night eclipse. 

There are lots of highlights in the winter sky, and we'll have telescopes and laser pointers to help find it all.  There may even be some surprises in store for us.  Hope to see you there.

Image: The night sky on February 20, 2008, around 9:00 p.m. as it will appear from Toscana Park in Mishawaka, IN, during the total lunar eclipse.  See
eclipse.htm for details.


Copyright 2009 Chuck Bueter.  All rights reserved.